Melungeon was one of the Clans studied by Edward T. Price in 1950-53. Geographic Analysis of White-Negro-Indian Racial Mixtures in Eastern United States.
Edward T. Price, Los Angles State College
1-The Melungeons -Centering in Hancock County, TN, reached Newman Ridge and Blackwater Valley in then Hawkins County, now Hancock County in the 1790’s 2-Redbones- Louisiana 3-Cajans-Alabama, Mississippi 4-Cereoles- Mississippi 5-Dominickers-Georgia 6-Brass Ankles- South Carolina 7- Croatans-North Carolina and South Carolina 8- Cubans -North Carolina 9-Browns Branch, Kentucky 10-Cubans, 11- Magoffin - Kentucky 12-Issues, Amherst County, Virginia 13- Irish Creek -Virginia 14- Carmel Indians-Ohio 15-Wesorts, Maryland 16-Darke Country, West Virginia 17-Guineas-West Virginia 18- Nanticokes, Maryland 19-Moors and Nanticokes, Maryland 20- Keating Mountain-Pennsylvania, 21-Pools, Pennsylvania 22- Jackson Whites, New York and New Jersey 23- Bushwhackers-New York 24-Slaughters- New York.
Dr Virginia DeMarce in her review wrote "Melungeons thus becomes a catchall description for dark skinned individuals” The manner in which individuals are deduced to be Melungeon is troubling. By surmising a connection when it cannot be shown." and then she went on to write in the review that this belief is contrary to the historical facts: "Tennessee Melungeons And Related Groups”- Dr. Virginia Easley DeMarce Historian Branch of Acknowledgement and Research, Burea Of Indian Affairs Washington DC.
" What is a social isolate? She writes; "The great majority of people in the United States who carry a mixed European, African and Native American genealogical heritage are not members of social Isolate groups." Continuing: DeMarce then uses professional geographer Edward T. Price description of a Social Isolate, ( survey complied in 1950.) (1)"The people must be racial mixtures of white and non-white groups, Indian and /or negro peoples presumably providing the latter blood in the absence of evidence to the contrary.(2) they must have a social status differing from the whites, Indians or Negroes in the area in such a way as to throw them generally together in their more personal social relationships;(3) they must exist in such numbers and concentration as to be recognized in their locality as such a group and usually to be identified by a distinguishing group name. "
"Price emphasis on the existence of a group is fundamental to studying the genealogy of social isolate groups, as groups. In spite of the on going myth that one drop of African ancestry classified an individual or family as black, the historical fact is that this principle was nowhere a matter of law in the United States prior to the early 20th century, whereas in most jurisdictions prior to the Civil War, free persons with less than 1/8 or 1/16 African Ancestry were, for legal purposes, classified as white."
" Fact. The actual, factual history of social isolate settlements are going to be written by genealogist and family historians: document by individual document, fact by painstaking fact. The function and duty of the individual historian and the genealogist is to demystify and to demythologize." "When we know the origins of each individual Melungeon family, we will know the origins of the Melungeons. When we know the orgins of each family in 'other' social isolates, we will begin to understand their genesis and development." (End Dr Virginia DeMarce)
The oldest written record of this term is recorded in the Stony Creek Church Minutes Sept 26, 1813 Church Sat in love, Brother Kilgore Moderator.Then came forward Sister Kitchen and complained to the church against Susanna Stallard for saying she harbored them Melungins. Sister Sook said she was hurt with her for believing her child and not believing her, and she want talk to her to get satisfaction, and both is “pigedish”, one against the other. Sister Sook lays it down and the church forgives her. Then came forward Cox and relates to the church, that he went to the association and took the letter and they received the letter in fellowship. Dismissed. (This is recorded 26 September 1813, minutes of Stony Creek Church. Also note the previous and preceding minutes to Sept 1813 all exist in full, which is June, July, August October, November and December. )
These Stony Creek minutes suggest by 1813 the Blackwater group was called Melungeon, but in 1804 they may not have been known as Melungeons.
July 28, 1804 Church meeting held at Stony Creek, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper be administered at our meeting to be held in September and every three months from the time to come. Bro. Charles Gibson is restored to his seat. Br. James Kitchens and Br. John Richmond appointed to cite Br. Thomas Alley to appear before this church next meeting . Ruben Gibson laid under censure till next meeting and that his mother cite him to appear. Thomas Gibson restored by a recantation.
Dismissed in order.
“Sept 25, 1804 Ruben Gibson excluded from membership of this church, he lives down at Blackwater, and has our letter of (dismission) and keeps it, and has joined another church”
There is a tradition that John Sevier encountered the Melungeons, some thought this happened when he was trying to establish the state of Franklin, but they were not in this area at this time. The date of this encounter was in 1802 when Sevier surveyed land boundaries for Hawkins County, Tennessee. 138 Excerpts from John Sevier’s diary suggest he may have later in life, made this reference after meeting these dark skin people and spending the night with one of them on the following 1802 survey.. Looney’s Gap was the main road from Rogersville, Tennessee, across Clinch Mountain and on to the Grainger County Line which was probably the route Sevier took to cross Newman Ridge and Powell Mountain to Mulberry Creek, which would be on the east side of Sneedville and west end of Vardy. The location of the old road from Sneedville to Blackwater Creek was a gap in the ridge and this gap can be seen today, at the foothill of said gap was Vardy Springs. Vardy Collins boarding house would eventually be located near the spring. They stayed near this location at the home of a man named Gibson and then went across Powell Mountain to Mulberry Gap, probably near the location of the present road. Then notice the route taken on Sat. 27, 1802. Daniel Flanery was the owner of the area marked on today’s map as Flannery’s Ford on the Powell River. This area in Mulberry Gap, extending to and including land on the North side of Powell River, land was in Hawkins and adjoining Grainger County, Tennessee. Flannery’s Ford on Powell River can be located today on a map. It’s north of Mulberry Creek on the Powell River and west of Jonesville in Lee County, Virginia. Additions and corrections are in parenthesis by this author.
“Mon. Nov. 1802 Mr. Fish went on to Hawkins C. H. Self and Genl. Rutledge crossed Clinch Mountain at Looneys Gap traveled down lower creek to Abs. Loone ys (* Absolem Looney) came up with the surveyors at Daws (*Doswell) Rogers plantation. The line crossing at Waddels ford on Clinch River near mouth of Shelby’’s Creek one mile above - lay there all night. Mr. Fish retd. brought with him $50 Recd from Nelson sheriff of Hawkins out of which I received 18 dollars. Wed. 24 lay here this day & night Genl. Martin & Majr. Taylor arrived. Thursday 25 Rained Lay at Roberts Fry. 26 Clear day. We all sit out from Robert's crossed Newman Ridge & lodged all night on black water creek at Gibsons .Mssrs? Fish and Taylor left us. Sat. 27 We stayed Crossed Powell mountain and lodged at Sanders mill 7 miles...Left the surveyors coming on from Blackwater. On our route today passed Daniel Flanarys on No.(North) side of Mulbery Gap. Mulberry Creek flows into Powel River between Powell Mountain and Waldens Ridge. Sun. 28 We measured the Cross line and found our course on quarter too far to the South- Lodged at same place.” 139 (MELUNGEONS- Footprints From The Past. Pages 69-70.)
An unknown journalist in Little Living age came to this same area on Blackwater in the 1840’s and forever sealed the existence of this Melungeon clan, including their mixture and firm location. “You must know that within ten miles of this owl's nest, there is a watering-place, and Mineral Springs in Vardy, Hancock County, Tennessee known hereabouts as 'black-water springs.' It is situated in a narrow gorge, scarcely half a mile wide, between Powell's Mountain and the Copper Ridge, and is, as you may suppose, almost inaccessible. Now this gorge and the tops and sides of the adjoining mountains are inhabited by a singular species of the human animal called MELUNGENS. We stopped at 'Old Vardy's, the hostelries of the vicinage. Old Vardy is the 'chief cook and bottle-washer' of the Melungens, and is really a very clever fellow: but his hotel savors strongly of that peculiar perfume that one may find in the sleeping-rooms of our Negro servants, especially on a close, warm, summer evening. We arrived at Vardy's in time for supper, and thus despatched, we went to the spring, where were assembled several rude log huts, and a small sprinkling of 'the natives, together with a fiddle and other preparations for a dance. The dance was engaged in with right hearty good will.The legend of their history, which they carefully preserve, is this. A great many years ago, these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese Adventurers, men and women--who came from the long-shore parts of Virginia, that they might be freed from the restraints and drawbacks imposed on them by any form of government. These intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants after the advances of the whites into this part of the state with the negros and the whites, thus forming the present race of Melungens.”
178 “There seems to be no reason for this writer to have invented this detail, “The Melungeons carefully preserved the “Legend of their history.” This “Legend” according to the writer, included an original descent from Portuguese adventures and later intermarriages with Indians, Negroes, and whites.”
179 The visit to Vardy Valley in 1848 was revisited about 50 years later on Friday July 2, 1897. C.H. Humble returned to the same place as the writer in Littell’s Living age. This visit may have been to a mission house, because a New Presbyterian Church was completed in 1899.
“On Friday forenoon, July 2, (1897) the writer and Rev. Joseph Hamilton, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, started in a hack from Cumberland Gap, Tennessee for Beatty Collins, chief of the Melungeons, in Blackwater.” (MELUNGEONS Footprints From the Past pages 83-84)
211-Littell's Living Age, March, 1849 The Melungens, This was reprinted from the Knoxville Register September 6, 1848, quoting from the Louisville Examiner. This issue of the Knoxville Register has not been located. 212- Saundra Keyes Ivey comments on the correspondent in Littell’s Living Age, Dissertation, Indiana University. )
This derogatory term was not spread to other localities by migration because the Melungeons did migrate to western Tn.,Ky. Indiana and other places but those descendants were never told about this clan name. It was spread by politicians and Journalist such as in Littell’s Living Age article which was printed in most major newspapers during the mid 1800’s, so many dark skin people where given this name, or some other clan name by their white neighbors.
Ramps- Was a large group Price did not include in his study, this group was a community primarily located between Fort Blackmore and Dungannon Virginia called Ramp Town and some of the dark complected people in some communities in Wise County, Virginia. The above clan names and settlements were known to the local people who lived in those areas. Lets go back to the 1950s those of us who lived in various communities around towns in this time frame remembers names of communities that are slowing being lost to history. Around Rogersville, Tennessee within a 10 mile radius as the crow flies we had Petersburg, Cave Ridge, Pinhook, Guntown, Ebbing Flowing Springs, McKinney, Gravel Town, Cuba, Straw, Persia, Rock Hill, Goulds Hill, Tarpine, Polecat, Kepler, Burem. Most of these communities had schools and churches. Driving across Clinch Mountain on Hwy 70 where I was born, at the foot of the mountain is War Creek. Then Edison, Pumpkin Valley, Copper Ridge. Crossing Clinch River was Kyles Ford, Flower Gap, Fishers Valley, Walnut Grove and Big Ridge. Coming back west is Indian Ridge, Blackwater, Panther Creek, Newman Ridge, Vardy, Snake Hollow, Mulberry Gap, which included the eastern section of what is Claiborne County today. People researching Melungeon history make a huge mistake if they accept some authors statements that Newman Ridge Blackwater Melungeon settlement was a small group, if you check them out, they have never researched this area which is the only recognized Melungeon community that can be sustained by history, people were later called Melungeon in other areas but this is where this clan name began.
Although Lewis Jarvis referred to the Melungeon as the friendly Indians, he also stated they were not a tribe of Indians. “They have been derisively dubbed with the name Melungeons by the local white people who have lived here with them, its not a traditional name, or tribe of Indians” (Attorney Lewis Jarvis letter in 1903 Sneedville Times. And published in the 1994 book, Hancock County and It’s People.)
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